The Better Part of Valour (Confederation, #2)

By Tanya Huff

Rating: 3 stars

The second book in Huff’s Confederation series follows on almost straight from the end of the first. Having got the attention of a two-star general (and having got him miffed at her), Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is assigned to protect a scientific mission to a seemingly derelict alien spaceship of a type that isn’t known to the Confederation. Of course, the ship isn’t all it appears and it’s up to Kerr to get her team, and the civilians, out safely.

This is a fun story in the “haunted spaceship” genre. Apart from Kerr and general Morris, we get only a couple of cameos from any of the cast of the first novel, but that does give us time with a whole new bunch of characters to get to know. I don’t feel that the characterisation of these new marines was as good as those from the first novel. You didn’t really care as much which lived and died , although really Ms Huff? Did you actually kill off the character with “Kill Me” tattooed on his forehead? I thought that was going to be some sort of bait and switch, rather than going for the obvious target.

This time round, Kerr gets a love interest, in the form of civilian salvage operator Craig Ryder, who was the one who found the (apparently) derelict ship in the first place. The relationship between them is practically stereotypical, starting from “get out of my way, civilian”, through, “well, he does have a nice smile” to, well, no bonus points for guessing. He does have some interesting characterisation though, which is brought through nicely by Huff.

There’s not an awful lot more learned about the Confederation itself (although we discover that its politics are the same as politics everywhere, as the expedition is led by a glory-hungry, media-friendly officer who’s only there because of political manoeuvring by his people in Parliament). I do sort of think that this might have moved the overall war plot forward a bit, however. Mind you, I’m not sure if I just missed/forgot something, but I’m not sure what the significance of the grey barrels in the last paragraph of the novel was. It felt very much like the close up on a grave right at the end of a horror film as a hand bursts through, but if there was significance, it passed me by (or we’ll find out next book, I suppose.

Like the first novel in the series, this came with a nice wee short story set elsewhere in the Confederation universe, following a different group of marines, not related to the main cast as they were trying to escape from an ambush and dealing with the lengths that soldiers will to go for their comrades.

So a good milSF story that definitely makes me want to read the next in the series.

Book details

ISBN: 9781781169681
Publisher: Titan Books
Year of publication: 2002

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